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The day before he'd reported to the Academy to start classes, Ivan had given his name's word to his mother that he wouldn't leave the Academy grounds unless it was on a training exercise or by Imperial order. His mother had made it clear that she was aware of the long tradition of cadets sneaking out and she was very clear that Ivan would never be one of them. And Ivan had cheerfully given his word. He'd assumed the only ones trying to get him to leave the grounds would be other cadets trying to get them all into trouble. He really didn't expect it to be an admiral.

Admiral Hessman has orders for him. Ivan's to go with Captain Dimir to find Miles and deliver a message to him from Gregor. Admiral Hessman thinks Ivan's familial knowledge of Miles would be helpful. And Ivan's flattered. He's sure he can do this. It's just--

"May I make a call first, sir?" Ivan asks, hating himself for how squeaky his voice comes out. "I promised my mother I wouldn't leave the Academy." Admiral Hessman draws himself up, clearly offended, and Ivan nods to himself. He understands why the Admiral's offended. "She meant it for other cadets, I know that," Ivan natters on cheerfully, "but my word's my word, you know? I'll call her and get released and then I'll go find Miles."

"An officer does not call his mother to verify his orders, Cadet," Admiral Hessman says.

Ivan shrugs and offers his wrists. "I know, but I can't break my word. If you call Service Security to arrest me, I'll understand."

"I don't care what you understand," Admiral Hessman says, but then he leaves, which doesn't make much sense. Didn't he want Ivan to find Miles?

Ivan goes back to his dormitory, chewing over the problem. He's not sure who he should tell about this, if maybe he's supposed to turn himself in for it. He goes to his academic advisor first thing the next morning and reports. Captain Vorkalloner has Ivan repeat himself three times and then sighs. "Cadet Vorpatril," he starts, stressing Ivan's rank, the one thing that's ever made Ivan of interest to an admiral, "you are very lucky he didn't have you thrown into prison for that."

"Yes, sir," Ivan says.

"You were also in a place where the Academy's security system is notoriously unreliable and so your story cannot be verified. Don't consider yourself under arrest by Service Security unless they come to tell you that you are." And then Ivan is dismissed to go to breakfast. Ivan doesn't really understand. He's Vor. Vor accept the consequences of keeping their words. But if the Academy wants to do something before they have him arrested, Ivan will obediently eat breakfast first.

He mentions it all in a letter to his mother, but nothing else happens until four days later when Imperial Security shows up. The Academy Commandant had asked Admiral Hessman in a General Staff meeting why he'd been giving orders to cadets. Admiral Hessman had denied it. If they're going to doubt anyone's word and fast-penta someone to clear something up, it's going to be a cadet and not an admiral. ImpSec showing up instead of Service Security means this is political, but it's always political when Ivan's involved. That's his entire life. He's used to it.

"I knew it was politics," Ivan starts and then gives the whole story over and over again under fast-penta. A whole lot of people don't seem to believe him that he'd put his word to his mother above an admiral's orders. Ivan's insulted on behalf of his honor and his name. Of course he would and of course his mother knew he would. If his word wasn't worth anything, he couldn't give it to anyone. No one would accept it if it were worthless.

And then ImpSec leaves and Ivan hears nothing until Uncle Aral hauls him out of class and sits him down in a spare room to glare at him and then hug him very briefly.

"Ivan, you are deeply fortunate that you are more scared of your mother than of senior officers," Uncle Aral says. "Captain Dimir's jump pilot's father had been killed in the Pretendership and he's held a grudge against me ever since. He was easily swayed to the plot. No one on that ship was going to reach Miles."

Oh. "That's bad," Ivan ventures.

"Hessman couldn't take the pressure and blamed Count Vordrozda for the plot. It has now descended into even filthier politics, but you should be aware that you saved your own life and may have temporarily saved Miles."

Um. "Temporarily?"

"It is still unclear," Uncle Aral says, "if Miles is actually committing treason. But thanks to you unintentionally blowing up Hessman's plot, the Imperial summons will now reach Miles. What happens after that will depend on him."

"Miles isn't a traitor," Ivan says. At least, he really really hopes so. Miles would never betray Gregor. The rest of them... Ivan's not sure. But Gregor's the one who is important.

"Yes. I just need to convince a majority of the Counts that he's not," Uncle Aral says dryly. "As it stands, our House is still under a cloud, but you've helped raise some of it. But, as Prime Minister, I should warn you to not make a habit of disobeying orders."

Ivan nods enthusiastically. "Yes, sir. I won't do it again." Unless he gives his word that he won't, but he won't do that again. Even if it had saved his life. He can see why Uncle Aral is warning him instead of ordering him. 'Good job, now don't do it again...unless you have to' is something even Ivan can understand. This whole situation is much too political. But Ivan can't walk three meters without tripping over politics. He probably needs to start paying more attention to things, his mother's always said he does, and his mother's never wrong.

Uncle Aral sends him back to class with nothing more than another impulsive hug, but Miles does show up two months later for his trial. Ivan heaves a great sigh of relief.